I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12.
I grew up living in the same home for the first 18 years of my life until I moved away to college. That home brought me security, friendships, and many fond memories.
After marrying, my husband and I bought a fixer upper with the plan that we would turn around and sell it for a good bit of profit. This would allow us the financial opportunity to buy a home that we could settle in for the long haul. Our plan was delayed for a while due to a change in the economy. We were ‘stuck’ in a house that was in the ‘wrong’ part of town (a high crime area) – not exactly where I had imagined starting off in a marriage. However, I made the best of the situation and worked on decorating our home as best as I could.
When we finally did move into the area we wanted to live in, we continued to upgrade with the furniture and things that we thought would make life more comfortable and worked on growing friendships with other couples in our church, our neighborhood, and at our workplaces.
Never would I have imagined that almost 40 years later we would have moved 15 times and lived in three different states – and we weren’t even in the military! Over time and in all the moves, the things that I had acquired and the relationships that I had cherished had become lost, broken, or left behind. For many years I found myself unsettled and discontent with the circumstances in which I found myself and wondering whether we should have chosen a different path. I worried often and felt insecure, unhappy, and lonely. I cannot pinpoint the date on which that changed, but I can say that although I am not always happy with my situation, I believe I can say that I have learned the secret of contentment. Here are some things that I have discovered along the way:
Contentment is a learned behavior, a state of being. It doesn’t just happen; it comes when there’s a change in focus. When I turn off and tune out the things of this world whether it be comparing myself and my activities with people around me or on social media and working instead on developing my walk with Jesus than those things that once seemed important seem to fade. The ‘things’ of this world are temporary and will fade away; only my relationship with Jesus Christ will remain. Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:15; Philippians 4:12-13; 1 Timothy 6:10-11
An old hymn charges us to “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done.” This is a great way to begin to turn your focus away from what you don’t have and toward what you do have. God’s Word tells us that He will take care of us and wishes to bless us and He does! When we can take the time to focus on those blessings, even those that seem so minute, then that will take on a whole new meaning in our lives. Contentment has very little to do with having what we want, and everything to do with wanting what we have. When we walk through our day with a grateful heart, the lens through which we look at life becomes more of one who is blessed and less of one who is lacking. We may even go a step further and look for opportunities to bless others with the blessings that God has provided us. Matthew 6:25-26; Hebrews 13:5-6; Psalm 37:3-4
While we can, and should, learn from past mistakes and experiences, dwelling on or living in the past will never allow us to enjoy the present, or move into the future that God has planned for us. If the evil one can keep our focus turned away from Jesus with feelings of regret, doubts, and hopelessness, then he wins by paralyzing us and keeping us from the wonderful things that God has in store for us. Therefore, before making any decisions, we should begin by determining whose plan it is – my plan or God’s plan. We can determine this by studying God’s word, maintaining communication with God through prayer and looking for his answer as we go about our daily activities. Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 40:31; 1 Timothy 4:7-8
I have lived in my current home now for around five years. I am blessed to say that my family and friends stretch over many states. God has blessed me with both good times and some incredible trials that I have been able to use to better relate to or connect with others. God has also blessed us with the ability to bless others financially and spiritually. Today I challenge you to count your blessings, keep your eyes on Jesus never looking back on what might have been but seeking out opportunities to bless others with what God has blessed you.